Most of the time, checking out your website’s performance in Google Analytics is a snap.
With a few clicks, you can observe your traffic, user information, and generally just how awesome your site is doing.
But what about those pesky subdomains?
You know, the add-ons to your site, like your blog or shop. How can you tell just how much traffic they’re generating?
There are plenty of questions around subdomains and Google Analytics but the most basic is simply figuring out how much traffic is going to them.
We’re here to help you answer it.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking to filter out specific external domains that are counting as false traffic in your GA reports (such as spam referral sites and bots), we’ve covered that topic in a separate post which you can read here.
However, if you’re looking to track and analyze the traffic on your own website’s subdomains, you’re in the right place.
Keep reading to learn the importance of subdomain tracking and how you can accomplish it quickly and easily in Google Analytics.
Why Would I Use Subdomains At All?
Subdomains serve as add-ons to your primary website. They can be helpful because they function separately from your principal domain, but they still fall under your same domain name. This means you have the freedom to add new features or design edits to your subdomain while still having it be under the same umbrella as your primary domain.
Blogs, shops, and learning portals are the most common use cases for subdomains.
For example, if you’ve ever taken a course with us, you’ve probably noticed that our learning platform is my.datadrivenu.com which is a subdomain of datadrivenu.com.
The Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4
Universal Analytics is the previous version of Google Analytics (that is still very common), and GA4 was rolled out in late 2020.
Knowing which version you’re using is important because Universal Analytics uses View Filters that can be used to track subdomains while GA4 does not. The default settings in GA4 allow you to see when users move between your domain and your subdomains.
In GA4, you can see the data on your subdomains by going to “Engagement” and then “Pages and screens” in the lefthand panel.
This means you will be able to see users moving on your site and between subdomains accurately, so you can see how your visitors are interacting with your site without needing multiple views. However, in Universal Analytics, you’ll want to set up multiple views to get an accurate picture of how your subdomains are performing.
If you’re unsure which version of Google Analytics you’re using, simply check out the “Admin” section of your account. If you’re using Universal Analytics, you will see three sections: “Account,” Property,” and “View.” If you’re using GA4, you will only see “Account” and “Property.”
Subdomain View Filters in Universal Analytics
Before you set up a View Filter for your subdomain, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll want to still be able to view your website as a whole in Google Analytics in addition to viewing your subdomain.
This means you should have at least four views set up for your website when using Universal Analytics. These views should include:
- A view set up for your entire site using your preferred filters.
- A view set up to review performance on only your subdomain.
- A view set up that excludes your subdomain.
- A view set up that’s completely unfiltered (besides bot traffic). This is the view you fall back to if you’ve made a mistake somewhere else!
Here’s how you set up a View Filter in Universal Analytics that will allow you to track a subdomain:
1. Create a New View
- In your Google Analytics account, click on “Admin” in the bottom left-hand corner.
- In the third column, click on “Create View.
- Establish view features (i.e., website or mobile application) and name your filter. Make sure to give it a specific and descriptive name (even if it’s long).
- Click “Create View.”
2. Add View Filters
- Back in the admin section, make sure the view you just created is selected, and then click “Filters”
- Select “Add Filter” then give your filter a descriptive name.
- Select “Custom” for the Filter Type.
- Change the Filter Type to “Include.”
- Change the “Filter Field” to “Hostname.”
- Enter the subdomain you want to track in the “Filter Pattern” section and remember to include backslashes before every period.
- Example: my\.datadrivenu\.com
- Save the filter.
3. Add Subdomain Referral Exclusion
This step is very important but often ignored or forgotten. If you don’t complete this step, your subdomain will present in your reports as self-referring traffic when people move between your subdomain and root domain.
- Go back to “Admin.”
- Make sure your desired subdomain is selected.
- Click “Tracking Info.” in the “Property” section.
- Click “Referral Exclusion List.”
- Click “Add a New Referral Exclusion” and type in the name of your subdomain (with no backslashes).
- Example: my.datadrivenu.com
- Click “Create.”
Testing it Out
Testing that your subdomain View Filters are working properly is very easy. Simply go to your “Reports” in the left-hand panel. You can click through your real-time reports and user information to see how your site is performing overall. Then, switch to your subdomain view in order to see how users are interacting with only your subdomain.
In order to ensure that what you’re seeing is accurate, visit your subdomain, and then go back to Google Analytics and refresh in order to see your activity in your real-time reports.
Tracking Your Subdomains in Google Analytics
Tracking the traffic on your subdomains in Google Analytics can appear tricky at first, but really, it’s quite simple.
Remember that with Universal Analytics, you will be using a View Filter, while in GA4, this step isn’t necessary. Additionally, ensure that you have Admin access to your Google Analytics account before attempting to make changes.
Regardless of whether you’re using Universal Analytics or GA4, Google Analytics is an important tool when it comes to tracking and analyzing how people behave on your website. Make sure to properly configure your Google Analytics account to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your reports, and be sure to keep an eye on your subdomains!